San Francisco has filed a lawsuit against the State of California over a law that allows health insurance companies to charge women higher premiums than men. Women pay as much as 39% more than men for the same coverage, and the law allows it. Insurance companies get away with it because they claim that women in their child bearing years use more health care than men.
The practice is known as ‘gender rating’, and is much more common than many may think. There are 38 states that currently allow it and two more allow it with some restrictions. A spokesperson from the California insurance commissioner’s office stated that they must uphold the law until the legislature chooses to change the law as it stands.
Health advocates for women point out that the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission doesn’t allow employers to charge women higher premiums based on gender alone. They say that if it is considered sex discrimination on the job, then the same rule should apply when women are seeking individual insurance.
Dennis Herrera, San Francisco City Attorney stated that the unfair and inflated premiums imposed on women price them out of the health care market and they can’t afford health insurance. This is causing them to get their health care from city clinics and San Francisco General Hospital, causing an additional financial burden on the City.
Herrera states that the real issue is that women who are being priced out of the ability to acquire private health insurance are being forced to turn to the public health care system which is already financially strained. The state legislature has introduced two bills (AB119 and SB 54) since December, which address the issue. Commissioner Herrera has said he will drop the suit if either bill passes and is signed into law.